If the victims had all been footballers, or football fans, would we have marked their passing with a minute’s applause?
What a strange tradition the minute (often inflated to two minutes) of silence has become as a way of marking shocking events. Is it supposed to help us close the incident, pack it away?
Or is it – like the tide of roadside floral tributes to people we never knew – just a symptom of Britain’s growing sentimentality?
My first thought on hearing news of the Sousse shooting was of course horrified sympathy for those caught up in it. The killed and wounded, and those who loved them. The witnesses who will never be able to forget.
My second thought was to wonder if this is the beginning of the end of the age of mass tourism. I wonder still.
David Cameron, following Foreign Office advice, wants us to go on holidaying in Tunisia. Not just his way of packing Sousse away but a signal – to ourselves and the Islamists presumed to be behind the attack – that we (Britain and Britons) will not cower from terror. Which must be right, and yet…
If terrorism is seen to work, by shutting down Tunisia’s tourist industry, will that encourage more outrages elsewhere? Or will it encourage more attacks if this one turns out not to have achieved its aim?
I’m assuming here that damaging – perhaps utterly wrecking – Tunisia’s economy was the aim. In that, I fear it may succeed.
It was also, of course, an attack on Western / British / European “decadence”. Perhaps revenge for military involvements of mostly disastrous kinds in the Middle East and North Africa, the invasion of Iraq, air strikes against ISIS and all the rest of it.
Who knows what was going through Seifeddine Rezgui’s mind as he walked up that beach with his blazing Kalashnikov? Apart from cocaine.
Coke, in this instance, actually being used as a performance-enhancing (or enabling) drug.
As any student of history knows, when powerful leaders are toppled, the ensuing power vacuum will be bloody. Even if the leader was a ghastly tyrant. Especially then.
When the leaders of Europe and America celebrated, and assisted, the so-called Arab Spring – which actually began in Tunisia – did they have any idea what was being unleashed?
The one clear thing about Rezgui – as with any suicide bomber – is that he was as much a victim as those he killed. Those who chose and delivered him to his fate are the real monsters.
What makes monsters of humans? More to the point, what allows the monstrous among us to thrive?
It may be clothed in religious or political ideology, but the root cause is inequality.
And it’s a fact – which we all have cause to fear – that the world is getting more unequal. The rich richer, the poor relatively, if not absolutely, poorer. And more numerous.
The wealthy gated community surrounded by a poor quarter is a feature of most capital cities – London has its not-fair share. It’s more than a powerful symbol.
And it has its equivalent in holiday resorts around the world – in the West Indies, in Rio, in Egypt, in the Gulf. In Tunisia.
It’s the luxury hotel complex shut off from the poor and exploited beyond its walls. Sealed off on all sides except where the beach meets the sea.
The sick bully of Europe
After nearly a lifetime of support for Europe, I’m starting to have doubts. I’m not sure I want to go on being a member of a club which bullies one of its members into poverty and chaos.
A club of austerity-obsessed Eurocrats which behaves towards Greece the way a dodgy loan shark behaves towards a stricken client. Pushing them further into the gutter to keep the ever-increasing interest payments rolling in.
Forcing up levels of unemployment, child poverty and death, disease, hunger and suicide to keep the fat cats in cream.
On the road
The Tunisian beach attack was horrifying – as it was meant to be. But there’s a hidden grim truth that won’t make the same kind of headlines or send the same shudders through our collective spine.
More British holidaymakers will be killed abroad this year in road accidents than by terrorism.
So perhaps we should be grateful – rather than irritated or amused – by the safety-conscious new laws that came into force last week on French roads.
It is now illegal in France to eat while driving. So no more Camembert and tomato baguettes at the wheel, then.
And no applying make-up either. Which may come as a blow to the woman I saw recently piloting two tonnes of Land Rover along the A1 at 70 while using her rearview mirror to get her lippy straight.